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A SONNET upon SONNETS.
WORDSWORTH, Scorn not the Sonnet, critic! you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honors : with this key
Shakspeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
Camoëns soothed with it an exile's grief :
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle-leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante bound
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faëry-land To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand The thing became a trumpet, whence he blew Soul-animating strains-alas! too few.
ON HIS OWN BLINDNESS.
MILTON. When I consider how my light is spent Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one talent which is death to hide, Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest He, returning, chide; “Doth God exact day labor, light denied ?” I fondly ask; but Patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies,—“God doth not need Either man's work, or His own gifts; who best Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best ; His state Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed, And post o'er land and ocean without rest; They, also, serve who only stand and wait.” * For a sketch of Wordsworth, see Exercise CVIII. + See Exercise CXXXVII.
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour;
England hath need of thee; she is a fen
Of stagnant waters; altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea ;
Pure as the naked heavens-majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by,
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds, and seas,
Smooth fields; white sheets of water, and pure sky;
I thought of all by turns, and yet I lie
Sleepless ! and soon the small birds' melodies
Must hear, first uttered from my orchard trees,
And the first cuckoo's melancholy cry.
Even thus last night, and two nights more, I lay
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth;
So do not let me wear to-night away.
Without thee, what is all the morning's wealth !
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous bealth
There is a magic in the moon's mild ray,–
What time she softly climbs the evening sky,
And sitteth with the silent stars on high,-
That charms the pang of earth-born grief away.
I raise my eye to the blue depths above,
And worship Him whose power, pervading space,
Holds those bright orbs at peace in His embrace,
Yet comprehends earth's lowliest things in love.
Oft, when that silent moon was sailing high,
I've left my youthful sports to gaze, and now,
When time with graver lines has marked my brow,
Sweetly she shines upon my sobered eye.
O, may the light of truth, my steps to guide,
Shine on my eve of life-shine soft, and long abide,
ON THE PRIMROSE.
Welcome, pale primrose ! starting up between
Dead matted leaves of ash and oak that strew
The every lawn, the wood, and spinney through,
Mid creeping moss and ivy's darker green;
How much thy presence beautifies the ground !
How sweet thy modest, unaffected pride
Glows on the sunny bank and woods' warm side!
And, where thy fairy flowers in groups are found,
The school-boy roams enchantedly along,
Plucking the fairest with a rude delight;
While the meek shepherd stops his simple song,
To gaze a moment on the pleasing sight;
* Brother of William Cullen Bryant, and born in July 1807.
† John Clare, an English poet, born in 1793. His personal history is interesting, as showing what industry and perseverance, even in early youth, and under the heaviest embarrassments, can achieve.
O'erjoyed to see the flowers that truly bring
The welcome news of sweet returning spring.
ON SABBATH MORN.
With silent awe I hail the sacred morn,
That scarcely wakes while all the fields are still ;
A soothing calm on every breeze is borne,
A graver murmur echoes from the hill,
And softer sings the linnet from the thorn;
The skylark warbles in a tone less shrill.
Hail, light serene! hail, sacred Sabbath morn!
The sky a placid yellow luster throws;
The gales that lately sighed along the grove
Have hushed their drowsy wings in dead repose;
The hovering rack of clouds forgets to move :
So soft the day when the first morn arose !
The soul of man is larger than the sky,
Deeper than ocean-or the abysmal dark
Of the unfathomed center. Like that ark,
Which, in its sacred hold, uplifted high,
O'er the drowned hills, the human family,
And stock reserved of every living kind,
So, in the compass of the single mind,
The seeds and pregnant forms in essence lie,
That make all worlds. Great poet, 'twas thy art
To know thyself, and in thyself to be
Whate'er Love, Hate, Ambition, Destiny,
Or the firm, fatal purpose of the heart
Can make of man. Yet thou wert still the same,
Serene of thought, unhurt by thy own flame.
0, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odor which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye,
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses;
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwooed and unrespected fade;
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made;
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.
DWELLINGS OF THE DEAD.
BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE A sweet and soothing influence breathes around The dwellings of the dead. Here on this spot, Where countless generations sleep forgot, Up from the marble tomb and grassy mound There cometh on my ear a peaceful sound, That bids me be contented with my lot, And suffer calmly. 0! when passions hot, When rage or envy doth my bosom wound; Or wild designs—a fair deceiving trainWreathed in their flowery fetters me enslave, Or keen misfortune's arrowy tempests roll Full on my naked head,—0, then, again May these still, peaceful accents of the grave Arise like slumbering music on my soul!